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Four Connecticut towns to bolster food waste diversion

Middletown's food scraps.
Middletown's food scraps.

Connecticut faces a serious waste management problem: around 40% of the state's waste is shipped to other states for disposal. That gets expensive — fast.

A sizable portion of waste in Connecticut is heavy food scraps. Diverting the scraps to be used for compost, energy and animal feed was identified as a key method to reduce the state’s solid waste output, according to a legislation proposed by Governor Ned Lamont.

The state's Department of Energy and Environmental Protection this week gave grants to four municipalities to reduce food waste in their communities. They join a longer list of towns and cities that have received money for the project, which has distributed $10 million.

The money is used to collect food scraps from residents at transfer stations.

“Food scrap diversion is a simple and proven-effective method of reducing the amount of solid waste that ends up being shipped out of state and often ends up in landfills,” State Environmental Commissioner Katie Dykes said. “These SMM pilot programs provide municipalities with the tools to explore options that can help them reduce their waste disposal costs and insulate their residents from steadily rising tip fees.”

The state agency's recent grants, which total $570,000, were awarded to Bethel ($42,000), Bethlehem ($120,000), Middlebury ($115,000), and Kent ($55,400). Newtown will be expanding their program with a $244,300 grant. The funds were included in Lamont’s budget proposal.

Fifteen other municipalities, including Newtown, have already received money.

Dykes said her department has been able to fund compost efforts in some towns, but they are out of resources.

Lamont’s proposed bill could help.

“If the legislature passes this bill, we'll be able to offer these grants to all municipalities and communities across the state," Dykes said. "We think it's really important to be able to do this at scale and build on the momentum. there's been great positive feedback from those communities that have implemented these programs.”

According to the state agency, the programs have been successful in other municipalities. The Woodbury and Deep River programs are keeping around 35% of food scraps out of the waste stream.

The state’s waste management crisis came after the closure of the Materials Innovation and Recycling Authority (MIRA) waste-to-energy facility in July 2022.

Molly is a reporter covering Connecticut. She also produces Long Story Short, a podcast exploring public policy issues across Connecticut.